Sat/Sun, May 19/20 – Pilgrimage to Meriden

Tonight at 10pm, a few of us are going to make an all-night pilgrimage to Meriden where is the cyclists War Memorial. At 10 I was at Four Lane Ends, but it was 10.30 before we left.  A hundred yards down Salford road I punctured, but we soon had that right.  At Barton Bridge it started to rain, and in unwrapping my cape I tore it in two!  Nevertheless I managed with it and as events proved I had no further use for it. Cheadle was soon left, and to the accompaniment of a mouth organ we slid through the darkness to Wilmslow and Alderley, where supper awaited at 1am. It was now fine and held promise for a clear night though we saw no moon or stars. Taking it easy, we passed Siddington and came to Congleton, where we took the Newcastle road. Now we increased our pace and soon we were humming along at 15’s paced by a tandem.

At Butt Lane we started to climb, and, dismounting we walked about a mile uphill through Talke. Now and then the sky would light up with a red glow, which would then slowly fade away. Near Newcastle a chimney attracted much attention for it seemed to smoke in a reddish colour whilst all the background and buildings were thrown into bold relief. Truly this is the best time to ‘see’ the Potteries. At Newcastle we stopped a moment in the deserted square at 3am. Now came an easy run by the Trent to Trentham, and straight on in the gathering light towards Stone. We rode through Stone in daylight at 4.15, and entering the pretty Trent Valley we stopped near Burston for some grub. Twenty minutes later we were scuttling away at full speed for Rugeley.

Lichfield CathedralThe scenery was glorious but I am afraid I had a poor eye for beauty just then. I was fast becoming ‘punctured’ with the terrific speed, but I didn’t admit it. At Rugeley one dropped out, and we had to slow down. Lichfield was now passed at 6am and a short halt was called to view the wonderful cathedral. I have never seen anything like it in my life. Three of us now started to lag and the long slow climbs put the lid on.

The Cyclists' War MemorialThose last twenty three miles were a nightmare for me, and we were glad of every hill that afforded a walk. At last we came to Coleshill, and a tedious road brought us to Stonebridge. Another half mile and lo, we were in Meriden, and for two or three hours we had some respite. It was not the distance, it was the pace and the fact that we needed a wash and a drink that told on us. We arrived at 8.30am and after a wash and breakfast I felt fit for anything. This is the centre of England and four miles from Coventry, eleven and a half from Birmingham.

118 miles, 10 hours